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Game Design Brainstorming: SHMUP MMO


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Disclaimer: It is highly unlikely that the game under discussion here will ever be made. I just wanted to talk through ideas on this concept and, perhaps, figure out why no one has made it yet.

So, here's the five second pitch: An MMO based on old-school 2D-scrolling shoot-em-up's.

I periodically search to see if there's a beta for anything like this; apparently something of the kind was once made for a Korean market, but the servers have since gone offline. Now, I think this could actually be made to work, especially since 2D Beat-em-ups have already spawned multiple games on the market currently.

So, let's walk through this concept, to see if there's any fundamental difficulty in the enterprise:

First, the meat of the game is obviously going to be the combat. How is this going to work? In normal SHMUP (i.e. Gradius), your ship is usually a One Hit Point Wonder, which "levels up" very quickly through dropped power-ups from destroyed enemies, and has a limited number of "re-spawns" to get through a gauntlet of waves and bosses.

Now, giving a ship more "hitpoints" is a simple enough manner, but the thing about MMO's, and RPG's in general, is that progression in power is generally more gradual, with dungeons and bosses spaced further apart. Furthermore, many of these areas are set up so that the character has to be at a certain level of power to beat, regardless of the skill level of the player. In SHMUP's, skill is paramount, since at any point you can die and be sent back to Level 1 (in terms of character power.)

Is this overcomeable? Yes, there have been hybrids of the SHMUP and the RPG in the single-player world, most notably RPG Shooter Starwish (found here). It uses RPG stats to determine how much damage you give when you hit, and how much damage you take when you are hit, but getting hit or hitting is more up to player skill, which is probably a good place to start. In theory, the waves should be designed so that a skilled player could do a "pacifist run" through any of them, regardless of whether his ship/weapons are up to that "level" yet.

Or, if the waves are instanced, they might possibly be scaled to the player's level. This would also allow the difficulty to be set at the beginning, perhaps including a "One-Hitpoint wonder" mode, for all the old-schoolers.

The Second Big Issue is the Multiplayer aspect. SHMUP's have a long tradition of Player 1 and Player 2, which seems like it would be easy to adapt to a system of small parties, though I'm not sure how easy it would be to work with 4 player ships on screen at the same time (more would be silly). In any case, I suspect that Soloing would probably be a more than viable option in this hypothetical situation.

Still, if there are parties, would class roles work? Sure, as ships are customizable, builds might be designated as "Tank" or "DPS", though crowd control would be tricky, and healing possibly abusive. That would have to work through a lot of testing, but I still think it could be done. Or they could disregarded entirely; it's not necessary to the core of the game. Really up to the designer's vision (and budget), and allows room for variety in the market.

Again, I'm a conceptualist and writer, so I don't know how difficult this would all be to program.

If you have any suggestions as to why this would be more difficult than I think it would be, or have any cool suggestions you want to talk through, please post them!

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"Realm of the Mad God" Sort of fits this bill. "Realm of the Mad God" is also a nausea-inducing experience, because turning causes the entire map to turn about your character, rather than anything sane.

I wouldn't try too hard to forge these ideas. SHMUPS are all about bullet patterns and linear progression, while MMOs are all about sustained playability and PvP.

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We could try to be more sane than that, at least...

I just want to be able to play with these ideas, you know? No one ever had any fun giving up.

But yeah, among other things that does get into the issue of Free Movement vs. Forced Scrolling. Here's the idea I had: For traveling between planets/stations, the "screen" would be the thing scrolling automatically, while the ship had full 8-direction motion within the screen. Enemies would, depending on the A.I., either fly past in a wave, or attempt to pursue the ship, and thus stay in the screen until destroyed.

On planets, most enemies would be stationary, but there wouldn't necessarily be any automatic scrolling.

Bosses, once engaged, cannot be escaped from (thus making use of the old "Boss Warning" convention from SHMUP's).

As for progression and sustained playability... yeah, there might be the biggest problem. SHMUP's are 2-3 hour affairs at the very most, while MMO's are, in theory, playable indefinitely. It would probably mean a pretty low cap on each ship (and allowing pilots to have multiple ships, for different playstyles). In essence, maximize all features that would increase 'replayability' in any SHMUP.

Frequent content releases might be stressful, though they may be easier to put in than most genre's. Really, you'd need a good art design, and memorable bosses, for that strategy to work, and that could get old after a while.

PvP would actually be the easiest thing to handle; Dogfights, either 1v1 or team vs. team. The different weapons that can be bought/looted would have different firing patterns, and the low level cap (affecting damage vs. HP) would put more emphasis on skill. Heck, different fields could have environmental effects, and the field could expand beyond one screen, and there could be ground targets to defend/capture....

Heck, one's only limited by imagination in concept. I maintain this is still feasible from that aspect.

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